In recent posts I have admitted that I really struggle with longevity as a Hall of Fame attribute. I have been guilty of discounting the careers of players like Dave Andreychuk, Dino Ciccarelli, Pat Verbeek, Bernie Federko and Clarke Gillies mainly because they were very good players for very long times. I still don't know if that should equal greatness or not.
Adam Oates, a player who I really liked and I would consider superior to any of the names mentioned above, and also superior to many of the other candidates being mentioned for 2010. But I may have run into a problem - by my own establish standard, is Oates the playmaking version of Andreychuk in that longevity and consistency are the hallmarks of a career that maybe should exclude him from the Hockey Hall of Fame?
After all, he spent 19 years in the league and offensively speaking his first 4 seasons and last two were average at best and unimpressive at worst. Still, he hung around long enough to currently rank 16th all time in points and 6th all time in assists.
Even more impressive he had 3 seasons (in a 4 year span) where he finished top three in scoring and 7 seasons in the top 10. In 3 seasons he lead all NHLers in assists, and 10 times he was in the top 5.
To me Oates had a better peak than did Andreychuk or Federko or Mike Gartner. There was a 5 or 6 year window in the early 1990s when I believe Adam Oates truly was one of the dominant players in the game. Had it not been for a guy named Wayne Gretzky, we probably would be hailing Oates as the best playmaker of this generation. Regardless, he's definitely one of history's top ten playmakers, maybe even top five.
Normally I would like to see that peak of a career extended to 7 or 8 seasons. But I think it will be enough to get Adam Oates inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, very possibly in 2010.
People like to knock Oates' lack of a Stanley Cup championship on his resume. Hey, in this 30 team league not everyone is going to win the Cup like most of the stars did back in the Original Six. Oates did help his team make the Finals twice. He also ranks as the 25th highest scorer in Stanley Cup playoff history and 14th best for assists, so Oates was definitely a worthy playoff performer.
People also like to point out his lack of a major trophy. True, he never won a major individual award and was named to only one post season all star team (1992), mind you he was playing center ice at a time when guys named Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman and Messier were dominating the awards circuit. Oates was a six time finalist for the Lady Byng trophy for gentlemanly play, but somehow never won the award.
Adam Oates could play on my team any day of the week. Hopefully he plays on the Hockey Hall of Fame team beginning this Tuesday.